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Coca-Cola caught funding scientists who deflect blame for obesity away from sugary drinks

The Independent logo The Independent 8/11/2015 Doug Bolton

Scott Olson/Getty Images: Coca Cola was found to have been funding an organisation that deflects the blame for obesity away from poor diets and consumption of sugary drinks © Scott Olson/Getty Images Coca Cola was found to have been funding an organisation that deflects the blame for obesity away from poor diets and consumption of sugary drinks Coca Cola is funding a new organisation that is emphasising the importance of exercise over diet to a person's health, amidst concerns by health experts that the company is trying to deflect criticism of the health effects of its products.

As reported by the New York Times, the soft drinks company is providing financial and logistical support to the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN).

This group promotes the idea that exercise, rather than a healthy diet, is the key to health and weight loss, claims which go against the word of critics who say that Coca-Cola's sugary drinks are contributing to the global obesity and diabetes epidemics.

Records uncovered by the paper show that GEBN's website is registered to and administrated by Coca-Cola. The GEBN's President, James O Hill, said that the website was registered under Coca-Cola's name because the group's members did not know how to do it, and asserted that the group is independent from the company.

Information on the group's website says that the 'energy balance' theory "recognizes that good health involves both diet and physical activity and can serve as a platform to help transform human civilization to achieve optimal health through sustainable solutions that also drive economic prosperity."

As reported by the paper, two universities that employ some of the GEBN's leaders disclosed that Coca Cola had donated $1.5 million (£963,000) in 2014 to the organisation.

And since 2008, Coke has given almost $4 million (£2.6 million) to two of the GEBN's founding members for various projects.

The revelations about Coca-Cola's involvement with the health group come amidst calls for action to be taken against sugary drinks, due to claims that they contribute significantly to obesity and contain little nutritional value.

In July, the British Medical Association (BMA) said that sugary soft drinks should be hit with a tax, part of a "useful first step" towards the long-term goal of taxing a number of products that fuel obesity.

The BMA claimed that such a tax could reduce obesity in the UK significantly, and added that the proceeds could be used to subsidise the costs of healthy fruits and vegetables.

Similar calls to tax sugary drinks have been made in the US. Berkeley, California, became the first city in the country to pass a tax on sugary soft drinks. Now, soft drink-drinkers in Berkeley pay an extra cent on every ounce (28mls) of soda they buy.

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